Most days, they line up at the doors of Rim Country food banks.
Men desperate for a job.
Women desperate to feed their children.
Children bewildered at the change in their lives.
Rim Country food banks this year report a 250 percent increase in requests for assistance — often by people who’ve never sought such help before.
The recession doubled the jobless rate — and unemployment has continued to climb even though the economists insist the recession has ended.
But you don’t need to consult the economists.
You need only look into the faces of the people in line, driven to seek this most basic help from their neighbors.
We must not fail them if we want to remain the beloved community — the place we want to live.
Fortunately, the community has rallied now.
We will not let our neighbors go hungry.
Not in this country.
Not in this community.
So yesterday a good-hearted coalition of churches, community groups, community leaders and the decent people who have always made this place worth living in launched a three-month drive to collect 50,000 pounds of food and $20,000.
That communitywide effort will augment the ongoing effort of the food banks, themselves desperate at the thought they’ll run out of food in the cold, bleak winter ahead and so fail the victims of a derailed economy — unable to find a job through no fault of their own.
The Payson Area Food Drive (PAF) needs just one pound of food from each of us each month from now until February.
That’s not much. Just buy a couple extra cans of food each time you go to the grocery store — and drop them into the bins you’ll soon find near the checkout counter.
Some of us will do it out of kindness.
Some of us will do it because we know it could as easily be us in that line.
Some of us will do it for love — of our neighbors and of our community.
So God bless each of those who have organized this great food drive, by which we shall all be redeemed.
And God bless each of you who will drop a can in the box this week — and again next week.
And God bless each of you who line up and wait. Do not cast down your eyes nor grudge us this chance to help a little.
We are, after all, your neighbors. We will be there for you, dearheart. We promise.
Worst of times, best of news
We won’t pop the cork on the champagne.
But we’re sure gonna chill the bottle.
Payson and Arizona State University this week took one more vital step toward building a wonderfully innovative college campus here in town.
ASU and Payson have come to terms on the overall vision and now have agreed to spend the next four months working out the details.
Mind you, that’s where the devil resides — in those pesky details. So the whole deal could easily fall apart. And we don’t want to minimize the difficult issue both sides have yet to resolve.
Still, the public confirmation of private hopes seems momentous. And we can’t help noting that Payson’s economic low point may yield its political high point.
Consider the two things that the leadership in Payson has accomplished in these past 12 miserable months.
First, Payson secured rights to the Blue Ridge Reservoir water, thereby securing its future.
Now, we move within tantalizing reach of a 3,000-student campus placed on some 300 acres of Forest Service land on the east edge of town.
The visionary backers of that plan want to build a striking, “green” campus that blends with the forest — and offers a solid education at maybe half the cost of cramming more students into ASU’s Valley campuses.
The vision now has begun to take form, against all the odds — thanks largely to Mayor Kenny Evans’ ceaseless and far-sighted efforts stretching back more than a year.
As Robert Kennedy said in paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
The adage certainly applies to Evans’ visionary pursuit of a college campus that will enrich this community, socially, intellectually and economically. It applies as well to the long effort to bring Blue Ridge water to town.
And so perhaps future generations will appreciate the irony that this best of news came amidst the worst of times.